Artist Spotlight: The Sundays

7 Songs From The Sundays That Got Me Through The ’90s

The Sundays debuted in 1990 with the album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. “Here’s Where The Story Ends” got regular airplay on local alternative station KUKQ 1060 AM and immediately hooked me. I have to real quick pour one out for KUKQ, which for a brief period in the early 90’s was the place to discover music for Phoenix’s disaffected teenagers. For me, “alternative music” as a legitimate genre designation died in 1996 when it went off the air.

I heard this song recently in an “easy listening” mix at the supermarket and my heart died a little. It’s supposed to be wistfully sad, but I guess if you’re just cruising the canned food aisle looking for what’s on sale and it happens to be on the background, it would just be something soothing to hear.

What is it that makes The British so expert at re-packaging profound cynicism in jangly pop songs? You wouldn’t think a 14 year-old boy from Arizona could find much to relate to a 20-something British woman, but you’d be wrong:

And did you know desire’s a terrible thing/The worst that I could find/And did you know desire’s a terrible thing/But I rely on mine

This was pretty much my theme song for late puberty angst. I’m guessing it means something very different to Harriet Wheeler.

As I re-listen to these albums, I’m noticing there are a lot of parallels between The Smiths and The Sundays. One of them: they’re both most recognizable for their inimitable vocalists, but the rest of their bands are both quietly great, and can just jam in the background when they want to.

The Sundays followed up RW&A with 1992’s Blind, which did not get regular airplay and I wouldn’t find until I was old enough to drive to the record store (where I found a used copy). The really amazing thing about re-discovering the Sundays as a 16 year-old was that someone sold their copy of Blind. When I think of my “perfect” albums – the albums that I love every single song on – two of them are Blind are RW&A.

On the opening track Wheeler tells us she feels fine, but she may not be entirely sincere about that, but she’s managing anyway. Which is a weirdly hopeful thing to hear for a teenage depressive.

The Sundays use some idiosyncratic song structures (one of the things I love about them). Sometimes they skip the chorus and just do a verse leading up to a climax, which they’re roughly doing here. I guess I could count the opening hook as the verse and the ostensible verse as the chorus and the climax as the bridge or you-know-what I could just listen to it and enjoy it.

How do I not pick every song from this album? This one is really pretty, and I like the idea of “I liked you for 24 hours.” Love can be at its best when it’s at its most ephemeral.

Among other reasons, The Sundays have a special place in my heart because they were founding members in my CD collection (along with The Smiths and The Pixies). The “songs that got me through the 90’s” conceit isn’t entirely tongue in cheek, and I could’ve extended that timeline to the mid-2000’s. The Sundays were musical comfort food for a big part of my life. They were also probably the one thing that my girlfriend from about ’93 to roughly the mid-2000s agreed on. Seriously, the only thing. It was a terrible relationship and it went off-and-on for about 10 years too

Part of our first big breakup was she got the Static and Silence CD. Honestly, it’s The Sundays’ weakest album. It shouldn’t have bothered me so much that she got it. I only liked about half of it when it came out, and only really loved one song on it (linked above). It’s a more conventional pop album, written after a 5-year hiatus where Harriet Wheel and guitarist David Gavurin were getting married and having kids. Not coincidentally, the album feels “settled down.”

I still haven’t been able to bring myself to buy the album (which is admittedly ridiculous), but I’ve been listening to it on Youtube for the last couple days. On re-listen, I like it a lot more. “Monochrome” is still my favorite of the album. It’s the last song on the album, and if it’s the last new Sundays song I ever hear, it’s a lovely send-off for the band.

So if you’re reading this Jac, I changed my mind. I want that CD back.